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Buying a Car for a New Graduate?

Many are cool and tempting, but you can get cute and safe

Young man behind the wheel of a silver sports car

Justin Horrocks/Getty Images

Check out our picks for the hottest (and safest) new cars to buy the graduate in your life.

En español | Graduation brings new opportunities, new responsibilities and, for many students, a new set of wheels.

But before stepping into a dealer showroom, graduates and their families should research online the makes and models in which they have interest. Like picking a college major, one size does not fit all.

Even if parents or grandparents are helping with a down payment or even more, the first factor is budget: Financial advisors suggest buyers spend no more than 15 percent of their pretax income on a car payment.

“In most cases, graduates will find themselves in need of reliability,” says Alex Lauderdale, founder of “At the end of the day, nothing fancy is absolutely ‘needed’ … (graduates) most likely will be looking for something in the $15,000 to $25,000 range.”

These days even frugal shoppers can find great gas mileage, reliability and personality. Cars are also safer than ever: Backup cameras will soon be standard equipment, and blind-spot radar and crash-avoidance systems are increasingly common. Plus, most include Bluetooth connectivity — a necessity for this phone-addicted generation.

New rides worth considering:

Find your next safe car with the AARP Auto Buying Program

Find a car with safety features you want and get upfront pricing information.

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